California’s state flag features a grizzly bear, an animal that once was common in our state:
But before the flag, back in 1889, a grizzly bear was used in a publicity stunt by William Randolph Hearst, a wealthy businessman, newspaper publisher and politician.
Two years earlier, when he was 23, Hearst’s father had given him a newspaper to run – the San Francisco Examiner:
And Hearst, who never met a situation he couldn’t exploit for his own benefit – and profit – saw an opportunity.
The story goes that Hearst got into a heated debate with one of his reporters over whether there were still any grizzlies in California. The reporter, Allen Kelly, said there were. Hearst insisted there weren’t.
Hearst ended the argument by challenging Kelly to go out, find a grizzly, and bring it back – alive – to San Francisco. Hearst gave Kelly a blank check, plenty of staff, and plenty of publicity with updates like this one from Kelly:
After nearly six months, Kelly and his compatriots captured a grizzly, and Hearst’s newspaper headline read…
“He Was Trapped in Ventura County After a Terrific Struggle and Secured with Massive Iron Chains – It Was a Hard Battle but Not a Man was Hurt – The Long Journey Over Almost Impassable Mountains Before He Was Safely Landed in San Francisco”
A crowd of 20,000 was waiting at the San Francisco train depot to greet the conquering hero and the grizzly. Hearst’s publicity-hungry heart was appeased – for the moment – and the bear, now named Monarch, would be in captivity, on view, for 22 years until his death.
Monarch was used as the model for the state flag image, and the grizzly bear was named California’s official state animal in 1953, long after grizzlies had become extinct in this state.
Hearst would go on to run – unsuccessfully – for President of the United States in 1904, Mayor of New York City in 1905 and 1909, and for Governor of New York in 1906.
Now let’s fast forward, and meet another California politician who’s using a bear for publicity:
John Cox, like Hearst, is also a wealthy businessman, and like Hearst, has also run – unsuccessfully – for several political offices, including President in 2008.
His most recent run was for California Governor, which he lost to Democrat Gavin Newson in the state’s biggest gubernatorial landslide since 1950.
Now Governor Newsom is facing a recall vote, financed by what appears to be a bunch of rich, disgruntled Republicans, a number of whom were also Trump backers.
At present the Republican recall candidates include Mary Ellen Cook, a former pornographic film actress; Angelyne, a former Los Angeles billboard model; Kevin Faulconer, a former San Diego mayor; Doug Ose, a former California congressman; Caitlyn Jenner, a former male Olympic gold medalist and reality show celebrity, now a transgender activist…
And John Cox.
And his bear:
As you can see on Cox’s bus, his campaign slogan is “Meet the Beast.”
For clarification, I visited the Cox for Governor website, where an almost-three-minute video disparages Newsom for being the “Beauty”:
Apparently equating “beauty” with “all thinigs horrible”:
While Cox – I guess – is the “Beast”:
Because we need “beastly change”:
The video winds down by asking us, “You want beauty? Or a ball-busting beast…” and exhorting us to “Recall the beauty. And elect the nicest, smartest beast you’ve ever met”:
So I guess Cox is suggesting that he is the beast who will bring beastly changes to California?
Let’s pause, and meet the beast. I mean – the bear.
His name is Tag:
Unlike Hearst’s grizzly, Tag is a Kodiak bear, born nine years ago in a private zoo in Ohio. He stands 7½ feet tall, weighs 1,000 pounds, and lives at Working Wildlife in Frazier Park, CA, a business that rents out wild animals for entertainment purposes.
And Tag has, indeed, been rented out – for TV shows including Yellowstone with Kevin Costner and the Apple TV+ series See, as well as for commercials, Geico and Rocket Mortgage among them.
And now, Tag has been rented by the Cox campaign.
When asked why, Cox said,
“It was done to get attention, I’m going to be honest about that, but it also was done to show the seriousness of a beast. We’ve got to tackle these problems.”
Now it appears that Cox is getting a bit more attention than he wants:
According to this May 25 article, the Animal Protection and Rescue League (APRL), a San Diego nonprofit, is claiming that a stop Cox made in San Diego earlier in May “violated a city ordinance, and that ongoing appearances are illegal under federal law.”
APRL has filed a lawsuit asking a judge to order Cox to immediately suspend any further public appearances with the animal through the duration of the campaign to recall Governor Newsom.
APRL claimed the bear was drugged, which the campaign denied. The lawsuit also said,
“While at one point defendants claimed to use an ‘electrified wire’ to contain the bear, this would not be sufficient to stop a 1,000-pound bear. Defendants later admitted the wire was not even electrified as claimed.”
That “not even electrified” appears to be true. According to Tag’s trainer, the cord was unplugged because the bear had “long since learned not to go near it”:
I mention this in case you decide to attend a Cox/Tag campaign appearance – you might want to keep that “not even electrified” part in mind in case Tag figures out a workaround.
I’d certainly want something substantial between me and a 7½ foot, 1,000-pound bear.
Substantial – like an ocean.
The Cox campaign did have plenty to say as they pledged to continue displaying the bear at political events – at least until a judge intercedes. And…
“The establishment is running scared from the bear because they don’t like that we’re going to make the big beastly changes California needs. Gavin Newsom and his insider friends want to distract from the important issues like slashing taxes, fixing the homelessness epidemic and reducing the cost of living so families and businesses don’t have to flee the state.”
The Cox campaign has that “beastly” thing nailed, don’t they?
I was unable to find a schedule of upcoming appearances for Cox and Tag on his – that is, Cox’s – website, or elsewhere.
And I was unable to find a date for the Newsom recall election, beyond “sometime in November.”
I was able to find an estimate for what the recall election will cost, and who gets to pay for it:
And since a recent poll indicates that a large majority of California voters oppose the Newsom recall:
This whole farce is my definition of “beastly”: